The drought-like situation in 11 states has led to concerns about food security in the country. In an interview with Hindustan Times, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, however, dismissed them, suggesting there was enough stock of grains and there would be no shortage. Excerpts:
How serious is the drought situation across India?
In spite of the bad monsoon in the last two years, the agricultural production is set to increase this year. Due to the government’s proactive approach, policy coordination and swift response from states, a crisis in the offing has been dealt with successfully.
Will there be any shortfall of grains this year?
The IMD predicted a bad monsoon in 2015. We prepared an elaborate corrective scheme to mitigate the effects of a prospective drought. Around 600 districts were chosen and emergency schemes were launched to strengthen seed and water supply chain. As a result, according to second advance estimates, crop production in 2015-16 is expected to cross that in 2014-15. There is no shortage of grains. Any such prediction is totally misplaced.
Why hasn’t the government been able to deal with the situation in Marathwada?
This problem was built over time. During UPA rule, Maharashtra got several dam projects. But most of them were built to cater to the sugar industry, not farmers. These dams, built with public money, served just 10% of the population. I hope someday there will be a discussion on who took those decisions and at whose behest.
How are states being assisted to deal with the situation?
Allocation under the State Disaster Response Fund has almost doubled to over Rs 61,000 crore for the next five years. Over Rs 2,500 crore for 10 drought-affected states have already been released from SDRF. The Centre released Rs 9,000 crore more than what states asked to cope with natural calamities in 2014-15.